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The expressionist art of Gabriele Münter and Max Oppenheimer at the Leopold

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The expressionist art of Gabriele Münter and Max Oppenheimer at the Leopold

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It is a deep immersion in different faces of Germanic Expressionism that offered by the two autumn exhibitions at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, with the added value of the large number of masterpieces signed by fundamental Austrian expressionists such as Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl or Oskar Kokoschka, exhibited in the permanent exhibition. It is therefore advisable to take time to move between the various floors of the white cube inside the Museumsquartier, starting from the second basement, where the rediscovery of Gabriele Münter is proposed with over 130 works selected by Ivan Ristic.

Gabriele Münter

German by birth (1877), an emancipated woman who was economically independent for a long time thanks to her upper-class family background, a talented photographer even before becoming a painter, she was an artist who loved to experiment across the board. Known and appreciated during her lifetime, after her death in 1962 and until the 1990s Münter was considered above all as a companion of Vassilij Kandinsky, who at the beginning of the twentieth century was her teacher at the Phalanx art school in Munich, and with with whom he had an intense love affair until the threshold of the First World War.

Blue Knight

Together, and with numerous traveling companions, including Paul Klee, Franz Marc and Alfred Kubin, the two launched the Blue Rider group in 1911, in whose first exhibition Münter participated with six paintings. And before that the artist had been co-founder of the New Association of Artists of Munich in 1909, together with Kandinsky, Alexej Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin. Landscapes constitute a fulcrum of Münter’s production, which around 1908, the year of his first solo show in Cologne, he decisively took the path of abstraction and immersed himself in bright, pasty color palettes, also used for portraits, with results recognized today as paradigmatic of German-style Expressionism.

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Gabriele Münter and Max Oppenheimer at the Leopold Museum in Vienna

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Max Oppenheimer

The first basement of the Leopold Museum hosts the largest retrospective so far dedicated to the Austrian painter and graphic designer Max Oppenheimer (“Early Expressionist”), who after luminous affirmations saw his destiny marked by the inevitable escape to the United States, when Nazi persecutions left him no escape either in Berlin or Vienna, his “degenerate” works were confiscated and removed from the museums of the Reich and many others were lost (for example, in the exhibition there are photographs of about ten of his works, perhaps destroyed, perhaps disappeared into some vault). His fate was shared by many exiles who were unable to rebuild their careers overseas: in 1954 Oppenheimer died in poverty and solitude in New York. Before that, however, during the decades of heavy commuting between the Austrian and German capitals, his fame consecrated him among other things as a portraitist of famous artists and intellectuals. The exhibition curated by Hans-Peter Wipplinger is thus at the same time an approach to a key figure of Austrian Expressionism and a vast array of portraits of men who marked the twentieth century: Thomas Mann and August Strindberg, Arthur Schnitzler, Karl Kraus, Adolf Loos, his friend and atelier companion Egon Schiele, Ferruccio Busoni, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schönberg. The exhibition also highlights Oppenheimer’s second excellent talent: himself a musician, the artist was able to translate his passion into a large number of depictions that capture the moment of creation and performance of musical compositions.

Gabriele Münter. Retrospective, curated by Ivan Ristic, Leopold Museum, Vienna, until 18 February

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